Before a globe is pressed into a sphere,
the shape of the paper is an asterisk.
This planet is holding our place in line:
look out for metallic chips of meteor
hurtling through the universe. On my drive
to work, I saw my neighbor’s lawn boiling
over with birds. Like the yard was a giant lasagna
and the birds were the perfectly bubbled cheese,
not yet crisped and brown. And I was hungry
to keep driving, driving all the way down
to central Florida, to my parents’ house
and into their garage, and up the pull-down stairs
in their attic to find my old globe from 1983.
I used to sit in the living room with Kenny Rogers
playing on mom’s record player. I spun and spun
that globe and traced my fingers along
the nubby Himalayas, the Andes – measured
with the span of my thumb and forefinger
and the bar scale that showed how many miles
per inch. I tried to pinch the widest part
of the Pacific Ocean, the distance between me
and India, me and the Philippines. The space
between the shorelines was too wide. My hand
was always empty when it came to land, to knowing
where is home. I dip my hands in the sea. I net
nothing. Only seaweed, a single hapless smelt.
Aimee Nezhukumatathil (neh-ZOO / KOO-mah / tah-TILL) is the author of the New York Times best selling illustrated collection of nature essays and Kirkus Prize finalist, WORLD OF WONDERS: IN PRAISE OF FIREFLIES, WHALE SHARKS, & OTHER ASTONISHMENTS (2020, Milkweed Editions), which was chosen as Barnes and Noble’s Book of the Year. She has four previous poetry collections: OCEANIC (Copper Canyon Press, 2018), LUCKY FISH (2011), AT THE DRIVE-IN VOLCANO (2007), and MIRACLE FRUIT (2003), the last three from Tupelo Press. Her most recent chapbook is LACE & PYRITE, a collaboration of garden poems with the poet Ross Gay. Her writing appears twice in the Best American Poetry Series, The New York Times Magazine, ESPN, Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, and Tin House.
Honors include a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pushcart Prize, a Mississippi Arts Council grant, and being named a Guggenheim Fellow in poetry. She is professor of English and Creative Writing in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program.
This poem was originally published in TLR’s Indian Poetry Issue.